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Special football league kicks off

Second annual special needs tournament

Posted: October 6, 2008 9:29 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

The Santa Clarita Valley loves its football, with almost everyone getting into the game - high schools on Friday night, the city of Santa Clarita's parks and recreation games throughout the day on Saturday and College of the Canyons on Saturday night.

But until 2007, there was no football league for athletes with disabilities.

LETMESAIL, a lifestyle enrichment program for individuals who are intellectually challenged or physically disabled, changed all that.

The local nonprofit will hold its second annual SNAP (Special Needs Athletes and Peers) Flag Football Tournament from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Cougar Stadium at College of the Canyons.

The teams are made up of special-needs athletes and one peer athlete who serves as the team quarterback.

"The (special-needs athletes) enjoy the camaraderie of being on a team, and they get to feel like they are part of a sport that normally wouldn't be available to them," said Chris Apsay, who founded the football program with Rob Muir.

"Football is so big in this valley," he said. These athletes didn't have an outlet before, but now they do."

The peer athletes who volunteer to be a part of a team for the season also get a lot out of the experience, Apsay said.

This year's peer athletes consist of five Canyon High School freshmen - four football players and one basketball player - who serve as quarterbacks for the five LETMESAIL teams.

Interacting with the special needs athletes teaches the peer athletes that everyone is not the same, Apsay said.

"We put so many restrictions on ourselves. We are always so worried about what other people think," Apsay said. "But the people with special needs don't do that. They're just so happy.

"I think it teaches the peers a very valuable lesson in life. You are who you are, and you make the best of it."

The five Santa Clarita teams along with teams from greater Los Angeles and San Diego will play four round-robin tournaments Sunday, and an awards ceremony follows.

The LETMESAIL teams include 32 athletes ages 14 and older for the event.

"It's just a fun day of football," Apsay said. "It's inspiring and it gives you such an appreciation for the sport."

Call Chris Apsay at (661) 702-8555 or e-mail her at letmesail1@sbcglobal.net.

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